Denver Broncos | Ben Roethlisberger is off to a poor start in 2021, but Broncos aren’t underestimating Steelers QB

Video is ben roethlisberger playing in 2021

Ben Roethlisberger has played poorly early this season, but the Broncos are wary of proclamations that the veteran quarterback has completely fallen off ahead of Sunday’s showdown in Pittsburgh.

The likely future Hall of Famer’s QBR is 36.6, fourth-worst in the NFL, in part because he’s dealing with pectoral and hip injuries. The 39-year old looked especially bad in last Sunday’s loss to Green Bay, with eight inaccurate throws.

Broncos coach Vic Fangio isn’t buying that Big Ben is near the end.

“There’s a narrative out there that (Roethlisberger’s) gone down and I don’t see that,” Fangio said. “I’ve been watching this guy a long time. He’s still capable of doing everything he’s always done. He throws a great deep ball and has good pocket feel. I don’t buy into that narrative at all.”

Fangio’s comments aside, it’s gotten to the point where Steelers’ coach Mike Tomlin had to re-iterate this week that Roethlisberger is still the team’s starting quarterback.

Roethlisberger is 109-of-170 for 1,033 yards, with four TDs and four interceptions. The Steelers’ backups are Mason Rudolph (5-4 in nine starts for the injured Roethlisberger in 2019 and ’20) and Dwayne Haskins (3-10 as a starter for Washington in ’19 and ’20).

Roethlisberger told Pittsburgh reporters that he’s “got to find ways to be better with my lower body” to improve upon the accuracy problems that plagued him against Green Bay — and his overall inefficiency through the first four games. In addition to to Roethlisberger’s poor QBR, his passer rating this year is 78.9, compared to 93.7 across his 18-year career.

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That 78.9 rating ranks seventh-worst in the NFL and is also the worst rating Roethlisberger’s had in a season after four games. But Roethlisberger is confident he’ll re-find his old form, despite being affected by injuries.

“I’m not going to make excuses, but as a quarterback, there’s so much involved with your lower body,” Roethlisberger said. “Going back and watching the (Packers) game, a lot of the throws that I missed were missed because my lower body wasn’t in sync. Over-striding, not stepping towards my target — things mechanically I can fix.”

Tomlin is also confident, noting that “the only thing that is not correctable (with Roethlisberger’s struggles) is straight-line speed.”

“All other aspects of quarterback play — mechanics, footwork, eyes, etcetera — he has no deficiencies in terms of arm strength or arm accuracy and things of that nature,” Tomlin said. “I haven’t seen any of that. We’re excited about having an opportunity to work this week and seeing the result of that work at the end of the week in the stadium.”

Another key to Roethlisberger settling in against a strong Denver secondary (6th in the NFL at 197.8 passing yards allowed per game) is the Pittsburgh offensive line, which has taken time to gel early this season. The Steelers, like the Broncos, rank in the bottom third of football in sacks allowed at 10. That included eight sacks through the first three games, although the protection improved against the Packers, when Roethlisberger was pressured on only three of his 40 pass attempts.

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Pittsburgh’s offensive line features two rookies, right tackle Dan Moore and center Kendrick Green, and Tomlin said Pittsburgh’s spent the first part of the season “developing cohesion” in front of Roethlisberger.

“We’re gaining experience individually and collectively, and it’s reasonable to expect that to occur and to continue to occur,” Tomlin said.

Roethlisberger hasn’t lost confidence in his ability to turn around the Steelers’ fortunes.

“I don’t want to dwell too much on the physical things, the ailments that are happening, because it sounds like an excuse and I’m not going to make that,” Roethlisberger said. “I need to be better and I need to fight through (the injuries)…

“I’m not giving up on this season, no one in this building is. It’s still early and there’s still a lot of fight left in us.”

Big Ben’s rough start

Breaking down the Pittsburgh QB’s first four games of 2021, in comparison with Roethlisberger’s starts in other seasons in which he’s played each of the Steelers’ first four games.

Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger reacts as he walks off the field during the second half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis.

Year Record QB rating TDs/Int Comp. % 2021 1-3 78.9 4/4 64.1 2020 4-0 110.4 10/1 69.9 2019 N/A Played 2 games 2018 1-2-1 90.2 8/5 63.9 2017 3-1 90.7 6/2 62.1 2016 3-1 110.8 11/4 63.5 2015 N/A Played 3 games 2014 2-2 99.4 6/2 68.0 2013 0-4 84.2 5/5 63.6 2012 2-2 102.9 9/1 65.8 2011 2-2 80.2 3/5 61.6 2010 N/A Suspended 4 games 2009 2-2 98.1 5/4 73.2 2008 3-1 93.3 4/2 63.9 2007 3-1 94.1 8/3 57.8 2006 N/A Played 3 games 2005 3-1 123.8 7/0 60.5 2004 N/A Played 3 games

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